Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi

Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
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Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)
Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
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Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)
Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
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Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)
Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
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Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)
Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
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Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)
Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
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Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)
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Updated 09 October 2020

Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi

Egyptian archaeologists unveil discovery of 59 sealed sarcophagi
  • Old site outside Cairo reveals new treasures: 59 sarcophagi containing mummies unveiled
  • Saqqara is famous for its 5,000-year-old Step pyramid of Djoser and ancient necropolis

SAQQARA, Egypt: Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo.

The mummified remains date back almost 2,500 years, with many more expected to be found in the coming months.

Saqqara, 32 kilometers south of the capital, is one of the world’s most important archaeological sites, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1970s. Part of the necropolis of Egypt’s ancient city of Memphis, it is famous for its 5,000-year-old Step pyramid of Djoser, which has recently undergone a $10 million restoration.

Although there is still much work to be done to identify who was buried there, experts believe the mummies were priests and officials who once sanctified the vast cemetery.




Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)

The discovery of so many sealed sarcophagi — several retaining their original ornate colors despite the long passage of time — is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in decades.

“This discovery will go all over the world because it is the most important discovery that has happened in Egypt in 2020,” Zahi Hawass, the renowned Egyptologist and former Egyptian minister for antiquities affairs, told Arab News on Saturday.

“That moment, I cannot explain to you, it is passion when you discover a mummy for the first time that was sealed for thousands of years. I always say that you never know what the sand of Egypt may hide.”

The site had already yielded some remarkable finds, including limestone and wooden coffins, a huge cat cemetery and a rare collection of mummified scarab beetles. A bronze statue of the god Nefertam and a wooden obelisk decorated with hieroglyphs were also recently uncovered.

“We thought there were only animal mummies, like cats, crocodiles, snakes and lions,” Dr. Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities of Egypt, told Arab News.

His team of archaeologists were stunned when they uncovered the first of the closed coffins from an 11-meter-deep burial shaft.

“I found a big mountain of debris and, in my heart, I felt something and said ‘this is the place that they should start digging,’” Waziri said, recalling his first impressions of the site when he arrived in 2018.

As the team sifted through hundreds of cubic meters of earth, his gut feeling soon proved correct.

“We found the most famous necropolis of the sacred animals, including mummified crocodiles, snakes, scarabs, lion cubs, mongoose and falcons. It was amazing to find hundreds of those mummified animals and birds,” he said.

It was here in 2018 that archaeologists discovered the Tomb of Wahtye from the Old Kingdom’s Fifth Dynasty, which dated back almost 4,400 years.

Wahtye was a high-ranking priest and official who served under King Neferirkare Kakai. His tomb was found to contain breathtaking color reliefs of Wahtye, his wife Weret Ptah, and his mother, Merit Meen.

“We found tombs and shafts everywhere in this area, some dating back to the Late Kingdom and some to the Late Period,” Waziri said.

Then, on Aug. 1 this year, after a mountain of debris almost nine meters high was removed, the archaeologists had a “lovely surprise.”

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Egyptian Tourism

* Egypt’s lucrative tourism industry brought in a record $13.03 billion in 2019.

Waziri said the team found the first shaft almost 12 meters underground containing well-sealed colored coffins, all dating back to the Late Period during the 26th Dynasty, about 2,500 years ago.

Over the centuries, looters and grave-robbers searching for valuables have damaged many burial sites across Egypt, making sealed sarcophagi such as these incredibly rare and valuable to science.

Waziri is especially proud that the latest excavation was led entirely by Egyptians, who were forced to contend with delays and restrictions resulting from the coronavirus lockdowns.




Archaeologists in Egypt have announced one of the most dramatic finds in decades after 59 sealed sarcophagi were uncovered from the ancient necropolis of Saqqara, outside Cairo. (AN Photo/Mohamed Mosaad)

“We are happy that this discovery was made by Egyptian hands and an Egyptian team. They wouldn’t stop, for they love their work,” he said.

Taking to Twitter, Stéphane Romatet, the French ambassador to Egypt, hailed the “extraordinary” discovery of the pristine artefacts. “Long live Egyptology,” he said.

The 59 sarcophagi and their mummified occupants will eventually go on display at the new Grand Egyptian Museum, according to Khaled El-Enany, Egypt’s minister for tourism and antiquities.

The museum had been scheduled to open this year, but had to be pushed back as a result of the pandemic. The global pandemic has dealt a shattering blow to Egypt’s lucrative tourism industry, which brought in a record $13.03 billion in 2019.

“The museum, which will open in 2021, cost $1 billion and will be one of the largest museums in the world dedicated to one civilization,” El-Enany said.

“The site is exceptional, because it is overlooking the Great Pyramid of Giza. It has wonderful architecture, and the whole collection of the Tutankhamun camels will be displayed for the first time with more than 5,000 objects.”

The coming months will see a flurry of activity, with the reopening of the Museum of Royal Chariots in Cairo following years of refurbishment. Museums will also soon open in Sharm El-Sheikh and Kafr El-Sheikh.

One eagerly awaited spectacle is a planned pharaonic procession of 22 royal mummies, which will set off from the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square and make its way to their new home at the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization in Fustat.

The Saqqara discovery is only the latest in a series of significant archaeological finds that Egypt has sought to publicize.

“We haven’t had that chance to announce a discovery since March because of the COVID-19 restrictions, but we have battled such conditions and have worked harder since August to dig and uncover more secrets of this great civilization,” El-Anany said on Saturday.

Officials will be counting on renewed interest in Egypt’s antiquities to help boost the tourism sector, which is still recovering from the turmoil that followed the events of 2011.

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Twitter: @NoorNugali


Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit
Updated 52 min 20 sec ago

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit

Deals signed during Egyptian PM’s Libya visit
  • During Mostafa Madbouly’s visit, several agreements were signed between the two governments, most notably on the establishment of power stations in Libya
  • Libya is considered a natural extension of the Egyptian market, due to the geographical proximity and long history of trade exchange and cooperation between the two countries

CAIRO: Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, accompanied by a team of ministers, visited Tripoli on Tuesday to discuss economic and political cooperation with the Libyan Government of National Unity.

It followed instructions from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who is planning a visit to Libya.

During Madbouly’s visit, several agreements were signed between the two governments, most notably on the establishment of power stations in Libya to strengthen its energy networks.

Libya is considered a natural extension of the Egyptian market, due to the geographical proximity and long history of trade exchange and cooperation between the two countries.

Egyptian companies are awaiting government decisions regarding participation in the reconstruction of Libya, which they hope will produce new opportunities in a renewed market.

According to local sources, Madbouly’s visit is focussed on investments in the country, Egyptian labor issues and the reopening of diplomatic missions.

Last month, El-Sisi discussed with the head of the Libyan Presidential Council, Mohamed Al-Menfi, prospects for enhanced cooperation between the two countries.

El-Sisi stressed Egypt’s full and absolute support for the new executive authority in Libya in all fields and for its success in holding general elections at the end of the year.

He said Egypt was fully prepared to provide its expertise to the Libyan government to help restore its national institutions, especially security and police forces, to achieve greater stability.

Since the beginning of the Libyan crisis, Egypt has promoted political settlement by hosting the warring factions in key meetings.


Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria

Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria
Updated 20 April 2021

Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria

Chemical weapons watchdog weighs measures against Syria
  • OPCW members are proposing to strip Syria of its rights at the agency in response to findings government forces used poison gas
  • U.N. director at Human Rights Watch hopes the move will encourage countries to prosecute individuals for criminal responsibility

AMSTERDAM: Members of the global chemical weapons watchdog considered a proposal on Tuesday to strip Syria of its rights at the Hague-based agency in response to findings that government forces repeatedly used poison gas.
A draft document, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, was circulated among the 193 members at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
It was proposed by 46 nations, including the United States, Britain and France.
Syria and its military ally Russia have repeatedly denied using chemical weapons in the decade-old conflict, which has turned the once-technical agency into a flashpoint between rival political forces and deadlocked the UN Security Council.
The Russian and Syrian delegations at the OPCW did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The draft decision, which must win a two-thirds majority of members attending and voting during a meeting of the OPCW’s governing Conference of States Parties this week, proposes revoking voting rights and banning Damascus from holding any offices within the OPCW.
The draft, which could be put to a vote on Wednesday, said the ongoing use “establishes that the Syrian Arab Republic failed to declare and destroy all of its chemical weapons” after joining the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013.
Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, hopes the move will encourage countries to prosecute individuals for criminal responsibility.
“While this may be largely symbolic, it’s an important step toward holding the Syrian leadership accountable for their war crimes while confronting the biggest compliance crisis that parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention have ever faced,” he said.
Several investigations at the United Nations and by the OPCW’s special Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) concluded that Syrian government forces used the nerve agent sarin and chlorine barrel bombs, in attacks between 2015 and 2018 that investigators said killed or injured thousands.
Last week, the OPCW’s IIT concluded there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Syria’s air force dropped a chlorine bomb on a residential neighborhood in the rebel-controlled Idlib region in February 2018. Syria dismissed the findings.


Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'

Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'
Updated 56 min 29 sec ago

Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'

Jordan's public prosecution ends investigation into 'recent events threatening security'
  • The results of the investigation for those involved ‘constituted a clear threat to the security and stability of the kingdom’

LONDON: An investigation into recent events that threatened to undermine Jordan’s security and stability has ended, the kingdom’s public prosecution said on Tuesday.
Brig. Gen. Hazem Al-Majali said: “The Public Prosecution of the State Security Court has completed its investigations relating to the events that the kingdom was exposed to recently.”
On April 5, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi announced that more than a dozen individuals had been arrested on charges of undermining the security of the state.
“It became clear from the investigation that it contained different and varied roles and facts for those involved, which would have constituted a clear threat to the security and stability of the kingdom,” Brig. Gen. Al-Majali added.
He also said the State Security Prosecution is working on completing the final stages of the investigation and the legal procedures required to refer them to the State Security Court,” Jordanian news agency Petra reported.


Egypt fires top railway official after deadly train crashes

People gather by an overturned train carriage at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt's central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
People gather by an overturned train carriage at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt's central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 55 min 3 sec ago

Egypt fires top railway official after deadly train crashes

People gather by an overturned train carriage at the scene of a railway accident in the city of Toukh in Egypt's central Nile Delta province of Qalyubiya on April 18, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Raslan, who headed the railway authority since July 2018, was replaced Mustafa Abuel-Makarm
  • Country has seen three accidents in less than a month that left at least 29 people dead, some 320 injured

CAIRO: Egypt’s transportation minister on Tuesday said he sacked the country’s top railway official, following three train accidents in less than a month that left at least 29 people dead and some 320 injured.
The firing of Asharf Raslan, head of the railway authority, was part of a wide ranging overhaul of the rundown railway system's leadership amid public outcry over repeated train crashes.
Raslan, who headed the railway authority since July 2018, was replaced Mustafa Abuel-Makarm, the office of Transportation Minister Kamal el-Wazir said in a statement.
The changes included the main departments of the railway authority that manages train traffic in the Arab world’s most populous country.

READ MORE

At least 11 people were killed and nearly 100 injured in a train accident in Egypt on Sunday. Click here for more.

The overhaul was designed to “inject a number of competent professionals” amid efforts to upgrade the poorly-maintained network.
The changes came after a passenger train derailed Sunday north of Cairo, killing at least 11 people and injuring at least 98 others. That followed another train crash in the Nile Delta province of Sharqia last week that left 15 people wounded.
After Sunday’s crash, President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi announced the establishment of an official commission to investigate its causes. Prosecutors also launched their own probe.
On March 25, two passenger trains collided in the southern province of Sohag, killing at least 18 people and injuring 200 others, including children. Prosecutors blamed gross negligence by railway employees for that crash.
The country’s railway system, one of the world's oldest, has a history of badly maintained equipment and poor management.

READ MORE

Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it expresses its deep sorrow for the train accident north of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Click here for more.

The government says it has launched a broad renovation and modernization initiative, buying train cars and other equipment from European and U.S. manufacturers to automate the system and develop a domestic railcar industry.
El-Sissi said in March 2018 that the government needs about 250 billion Egyptian pounds, or $14.1 billion, to overhaul the run-down rail system.
Hundreds of train accidents are reported every year. In February 2019 an unmanned locomotive slammed into a barrier inside Cairo’s main Ramses railway station, causing a huge explosion and a fire that killed at least 25 people. That crash prompted the then-transportation minister to resign.
In August 2017, two passenger trains collided just outside the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, killing 43 people. In 2016, at least 51 people were killed when two commuter trains collided near Cairo.
Egypt’s deadliest train crash was in 2002, when over 300 people were killed after a fire broke out in an overnight train traveling from Cairo to southern Egypt.


Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests

Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests
Updated 20 April 2021

Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests

Turkey seeks jail terms for 97 over student protests
  • Indictment says suspects defied ban on rallies imposed to combat coronavirus pandemic
  • Prosecutors seeking 6 months to 3 years in jail for suspects' participation in unlawful rallies

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Tuesday demanded jail terms for 97 people who joined student protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s appointment of a party loyalist as a top university’s rector.
According to Anadolu state news agency, the indictment said the suspects defied a ban on rallies imposed as part of measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Prosecutors are seeking jail terms from six months to three years because of the suspects’ non-compliance with a law on “unarmed participation in unlawful rallies and refusal to disperse despite the warnings,” Anadolu said.
No date was given for the first hearing.
The protest movement — the biggest to rattle Erdogan’s rule in years — kicked off when the Turkish leader appointed longstanding ruling party member Melih Bulu as rector of Bogazici University at the start of the year.
The rallies began inside the campus grounds before spreading to the streets of Istanbul and other big cities with the backing of government opponents and supporters of broader LGBT rights.
The indictment specifically refers to a February 1 protest in Istanbul in which several groups defied police warnings and rallied outside the university’s locked gate.
Police roughly rounded up 108 people that day.
Ninety-seven of them were later released and a probe was launched against them by the prosecutor’s office, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors are conducting separate inquiries against the 11 remaining people, one of whom is underage.
The student demonstrations had echoes of 2013 protests that sprang up against plans to demolish an Istanbul park before spreading nationally and posing the first big political dilemma for Erdogan.
He has compared student protesters to “terrorists” and the rector at the root of the demonstrations has refused to give in to demands to step down.